Tag: stepparent adoption
Everything You Need to Know to Move Forward with the Stepparent Adoption Process in New Jersey
Given that approximately 25% of first marriages in New Jersey result in divorce, second marriages are 60%, and third marriages are 73%, families are changing in the blink of an eye. Frequently, stepparents want to make their membership in the family official by adopting their spouse’s children. Across the country, stepparent adoption is just behind foster parent adoptions, which are the most common. Stepparents do not have parental rights of any kind, and by adopting their spouse’s children, that changes.
Adopting your stepchild requires the experience of qualified adoption lawyers who know the law and have mastered the procedures necessary to get a positive outcome in your case. Having the close support of the lawyers at The Bronzino Law Firm will give you the peace of mind to move forward and follow the necessary steps and requirements to adopt your stepchild.
If you are interested in adopting your stepchild in New Jersey, you can trust us as your law firm to support and guide you along the way. We invite you to give us a call at (732) 812-3102 or get in touch with us online for a free consultation.
Most Common Situations that Lead to Stepparent Adoption
There are three circumstances one typically sees when discussing stepparent adoptions. The first is when the stepparent takes over the role of the child’s birth parent who does want to care for the child, is unable to, or has been declared legally unfit as a parent. Another circumstance is when the stepparent’s spouse (child’s birth parent) dies, and the stepparent adopts the child. Occasionally, when the stepparent and birth parent divorce, the stepparent adopts their ex-spouse’s child.
Stepparent Adoption Route in New Jersey
To adopt a stepchild, the non-custodial parent must give up their parental rights. The stepparent will be fingerprinted and be the subject of a background check. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency will also conduct a brief investigation. After an adoption hearing, the stepparent and the child will have the same rights as though the relationship were biological.
Requirements that Stepparents Must Meet to Adopt
Firstly, there must be at least a ten-year difference between the adopting stepparent and the child who is being adopted. This requirement has been waived from time to time under exceptional circumstances. Also, children 12 years of age and older must write a testimony that they want to be adopted and are aware they will no longer have contact with their birth parents. Children the age of ten and up can offer consent to the adoption process.
Parental consent is the sticky wicket in this process. The non-custodial parent must give up their parental rights to allow the stepparent to proceed with the adoption. If the birth parent is in prison, has an addiction to mind-altering substances, is incarcerated, does not have a place to live, or there has been proven abuse of the child by the birth parent, those are supporting reasons their parental rights could be removed.
Once all requirements have been filled, a family court judge will receive the adoption case and approve or deny it. This is the step that determines if the adoption is granted or denied.
Parental Consent, a Critical Component of Stepparent Adoption
Stepparent adoptions require that both birth parents consent to the adoption, giving up their parental rights. Usually, the birth mother or father, one of the biological parents, is in the relationship and wants the stepparent to adopt their child. Getting consent from the non-custodial parent can be incredibly challenging. It can be worrisome for a parent to rescind their parental rights and responsibilities. They will have no say in their child’s future. Of course, if the parent hasn’t had a relationship with the child for many years, permission may be more readily obtained.
Proving Negligence if Consent of Both Parents is Not Granted in NJ
If one can prove neglect, abuse, or abandonment on the part of the non-custodial parent, losing their parental rights is much easier. If you can prove the parent is not the biological father, he would have parental rights. There are several statutes that allow for the adoption of children by their stepparents without actual parental consent. They all require the birth parent to be notified of the adoption with or without their consent, and it only takes one to favor the adoption.
If the birth parent has not communicated compellingly with their child in 12 months without justifiable cause, this will denote abandonment. Next, if the birth parent is involved in criminal activities, is chronic alcohol or drug abuser, or spends most of their time incarcerated, parental rights could be taken. Also, proven physical, mental, sexual, or emotional abuse, malnutrition, or neglect on the part of the natural parent to the child can cause them to lose their parental rights.
There are times when the birth parent contests the adoption process. The stepparent and their lawyer must compile evidence showing the birth parent’s consent are unnecessary. Meanwhile, the birth parent must establish a relationship with the child that cannot be lost to the adoption. If the judge accepts the stepparent’s case, the adoption is granted; if they get the birth parent’s case, it is denied. An appeal is possible for the losing side.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights for Stepparent Adoption
If a parent’s rights are terminated voluntarily, they relinquish their rights as a parent. When dealing with involuntary termination of parental rights, the parent and stepparent must petition the court to prove the other natural parent is unfit. This is frequently seen when they have been unable to steadily contact the parent, or there is no longer a relationship with the child. If the stepparent can show a profound and valued relationship with the child, involuntary termination is a strong possibility.
How Long is the Stepparent Adoption Process in New Jersey?
It depends on many factors: the availability of the court if the birth parent is contesting the adoption, if you can produce all requested documents expeditiously and with few complications, it could take three months, with more, 12 months or more.
Planning to Start the Stepparent Adoption Process in NJ? Contact our Offices in Brick and Sea Girt
If you or someone you know is going to adopt a stepchild, it is an excellent idea to depend on an attorney to guide you through the process, especially if you suspect you may have trouble in the area of parental rights. A lawyer on our team can explain the best way to handle any situation that may come up and ensure that everything is handled precisely along the way.
The Bronzino Law Firm is prepared to make the adoption of your stepchild a pleasant and memorable moment. We want to meet your growing family’s needs and enjoy nothing more than shaking hands and smiling for pictures when your adoption process has been completed in Asbury Park, Middletown, Manchester, Berkeley, Howell, Point Pleasant, Manalapan, and elsewhere in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
Adoption Attorneys and Parental Rights for Stepparents Monmouth and Ocean County NJ
With the growing number of divorces and single parents finding love again, blended families become increasingly common.
A bond that develops between a stepchild and a stepparent can be extremely close and could be as strong as that of a biological parent and child. Civil union dissolutions and divorce dissolves a marriage, but not parental rights, thus allowing parents’ biological parents to maintain their parental rights to their child. Unfortunately, stepparents who find themselves in the same situation have few legal rights or protections, or inherent child custody options, or visitation rights without pursuing adoption.
Alternatively, the Family Court may view a strong, healthy relationship between the child and the stepparent as beneficial in terms of the child’s best interests. In unique situations like these, the court may favor the stepparent over one of the biological parents, thus positively creating tri-parenting opportunities that give the children a well-rounded and healthy childhood or negatively create parental alienation.
Divorce and high-conflict custody battles are tough, life-changing, and stressful, and children should be shielded from acrimony. If divorce and adoption have not taken place, there are still actions a New Jersey child custody and visitation attorney can take on your behalf to ensure your family’s rights and future are secure. Contact the Bronzino Law Firm, LLC online now to make sure your stepparent rights are protected.
Stepparent Adoptions May Mean The Relinquishing of Parental Rights in NJ
Even if the biological parent against whom the stepparent is seeking a divorce is an unfit parent, the law states that in such a situation, the custody of the child should revert to the other biological parent, not to the stepparent. Although there are some minimal exceptions, it is not totally impossible for a stepparent to sometimes gain custody of a stepchild. If a stepparent believes that both parents are unfit and can demonstrate that abuse has occurred, a stepparent may be able to successfully request custody if he or she can also show that ending a relationship between the child and the stepparent would be detrimental to the child. However, a stepparent should be aware that a court will almost always prefer a blood relative to be the custodian of a child, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.
Particularly noteworthy, in 2014’s K.A.F. v. D.L.M., the NJ Family Court recognized that it was in the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with a “psychological parent,” a same-sex couple who were ending a civil union. Thus issues raised during this case may be used to defend the rights of a stepparent in other kinds of child custody cases.
The only sure way for a stepparent to be guaranteed to request custody or visitation is to adopt the child. To complete a stepparent adoption, the spouse of the stepparent must agree. If the adoption is completed, the law views the stepparent as the biological and legal parent of the stepchild with the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent.
Creative Options to Relinquishing Parental Rights & Understanding Stepparents’ Rights
The relinquishing of parental rights is really a worst-case scenario option. A different and effective option that can help you better understand and protect your rights is putting a child custody agreement that will grow and change in different situations as solutions may present themselves. In essence, as long as you are putting your stepchild’s best interests first, you can have the reassurance that the solution you choose is the right one.
The Bronzino Law Firm, LLC team of family law attorneys are devoted to helping parental figures, and the children in their life maintain their relationships. If you or a friend is facing a change in your family life, please schedule an appointment with us today to discuss your rights and plan of action.
Is a Stepparent Financially Obligated to Pay Child Support in NJ?
Stepparents don’t have a specific financial obligation to provide for their stepchild. Generally, NJ Child Support Guidelines calculations do not consider the stepparent’s income or financial situation. The only exception being, if the stepparent adopts the stepchild.
In the event of an adoption, as the child’s legal parent, with all of the same rights and responsibilities of a natural parent, the stepparent could either gain custody of the child or be ordered to pay child support.
Consult a Monmouth Stepparent Parental Rights & Adoption Attorney Today
At The Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our New Jersey family law attorneys are skilled in supporting families across Asbury Park, Wall, Manasquan, Neptune, Spring Lake, and surrounding towns as they undergo the process of negotiating child custody agreements and parenting time schedules.
Our direct approach ensures that the best interests of the child and the rights of our parental clients are met incompatible ways.